By Emma Slade Edmondson
With 11 million pieces of clothing heading to landfill each week in the UK, and with the UK being a far higher consumer of ‘new fashion’ than other European countries, one of the best and probably easiest ways you can shop your fashion sustainably is by choosing to buy second hand. There’s an unsustainable toll being taken on the planet’s resources and by extending the life of a piece of clothing by an extra 9 months, you can reduce environmental impact by 20-30%!
With this in mind here are my top tips for sourcing your fashion forward wardrobe whilst shopping sustainably…
1. Discover your local charity shops and vintage stores
Become a regular and bag yourself a bargain – charity shops can be full of little treasures and unique finds. Give yourself an afternoon to trawl the local charity shops or vintage stores; or make a habit of popping in more regularly on your way home to see what’s new in. One thing you can almost be sure of is that when you find something you love, it’s unlikely anyone else is going to be wearing it!
Don’t mirror an era! Instead mix your eras – team a pair of 70’s cow boy boots with a more delicate 90’s slip dress, layered over a 60’s turtle neck and boom you’ve nailed a look that channels Ganni’s Scandinavian bold, but simple feel! Plus – you’re going to look much less like you stepped out of your nan’s closet and more like an accomplished style expert.
2. Catch the trend on it’s way back around
Trends always come back around, so finding pieces that are key for this season in a vintage store or in the charity shop, really isn’t as hard as you might think! Here are some trends to look out for this season…
- Keep an eye out for leopard print, zebra print, stripes and spots – team three prints together in a jungle frenzy for maximum impact Max Mara style.
- Look for blanket like scarves and emulate the oversized capes seen at Saint Laurent and Isabel Marant.
- You’ll often find a checked or tweed men’s’ blazers in a charity shop. Throw over a feminine floral dress to achieve an on-trend look.
3. Have a clear idea in mind.
In some respects, if you’re unprepared, charity shopping can feel a little like sale shopping. If it’s your first time at the rodeo, I recommend hitting the shops with a clear idea of what you’re looking for in mind, to avoid feeling overwhelmed or unsure.
So, decide on an occasion you’d like to shop for and look firstly for a key piece you can build around. This key piece can either be from the charity shop; vintage store or it can be from your existing wardrobe. If you’re starting with an item you already own, bring it shopping with you to help you complete your look.
If you need inspiration the easiest place to start is the season’s trends, your favourite Instagram fashion crush or a brand you love like Studio B or Reformation, who’s styling of key pieces you can aspire to.
4. Re-think the way you wear things
Style Clever. Try not to get stuck in a rut with the way you might ordinarily wear a piece. Get creative and check out the trends online for inspiration. Think:
- Layering turtle necks, sweaters or even jeans under strappy slip dresses to get more wear out of them as we transition through the seasons.
- Mix Athleisure with the rest of your wardrobe. For example, wearing silk sweatpants with a crisp white shirt and heels, creating a chic office look.
- Join the multiple jacket trend seen at Balenciaga. For a less dramatic look, layer just two of your jackets together, for example a utility jacket with a teddy coat over the top.
5. Take care for your pieces like they are old friends
Wash your clothes at lower temperatures and less frequently. This will reduce the energy and water used and will gently look after your fabrics, prolonging their life.
The longer clothing lasts, the less often it will be disposed of or replaced. If we’re buying more clothing less, we’re reducing the negative environmental and social impact fashion has on our people and our planet and decreasing demand for non – sustainable production.
6. Research Sustainable brands.
Create a list of your favourites and if you really need something new, prioritise shopping from your list first before you look elsewhere. Also always check the about section on a brands website to see if they mention their sustainability policy. If it goes unmentioned, look for another brand that’s more transparent to spend your hard earned money with.
The good news is that slowly but surely lots more sustainable and ethical brands are emerging! For example, you might have recently seen The Duchess of Sussex sporting both Reformation , Lucy & Yak and Veja 3 of my favourite easy to wear brands.
7. Consider Fashion Rental
We are a little bit behind with fashion rental in the UK but it’s a fantastic way to get that newness fix without contributing to the demand for production. Sites like Wear the Walk offer fashion forward options and new designer collections for a reasonable monthly fee! It’s a pretty exciting revolving wardrobe to have access to and it can be fun to see whose Instagram feed pieces you’ve borrowed end up in!
8. Sell, swap, and shop
If you want to add another level to your approach to shopping sustainably, consider selling or swapping on the items you’ve purchased. There are now multiple events and platforms like Depop that make this super easy! Whilst you’re at it you’ll probably be inspired by someone else’s’ styling of a piece, in a way you never would have thought to wear it.
9. Look for good quality materials that are better for the environment!
Always check the label and to keep things simple go for natural fibres like wool, cotton, silk, linen and bamboo and avoid polyesters and nylons. The production of Polyester for example uses harmful chemicals, which cause significant environmental damage. When we wash synthetic fibres we contribute to the micro plastics being flushed into our seas.
10. Ask yourself three questions
Finally, before purchasing any fashion items, ask yourself these questions first… If the answer to all three is yes – go for it!
1. Will I wear this item over and over again?
2. Does it work for my wardrobe?
3. Is it well-made and good quality fabric?
11. Look for aps, blogs and info resources to make life easier.
Good on You is a great example of a helpful app that can make life easier when it comes to being in the know about which brands are sustainable and who’s doing what so you can make better choices. It provides ratings on how each brand impacts people, the planet and animals.
Tolly Dolly Posh is a veteran in the space but has been writing about sustainable fashion for many years now. Her blogs are a thoughtful and informative place to learn more about sustainable fashion.
Claire Press’ book Rise and Resist is now available for order in the UK – a great resource for more hard hitting info on how fashion is impacting people and the planet and what you can do to be a conscious fashion fan and to help build a more sustainable tomorrow.
And if you’re looking for even more pointers and inspiration on shopping second hand check out @charityfashionlive on Instagram where a different second hand fashionista takes over the channel sharing shopping tips for the coolest finds each month.
Thanks for reading!
Love Emma x
Written by Emma Slade Edmondson @emsladedmondson on insta